When one thinks of the Ole Miss offensive line, there are probably 10 thoughts that pop into your mind before you get to senior jack-of-all-trades Thomas Eckers.
Excitable Offensive Line Coach Art Kehoe. . . Blind Side's Michael Oher. . . man mountain John Jerry. . . quotable tough guy Corey Actis. . .Mo Miller. . . Reid Neely. . . the youngsters Sowell, Johnson, Jean-Louis, Geralds and Washington. . . power scheme versus zone scheme. . . and so on.
Usually forgotten is Eckers, who - frankly - doesn't even look the part of an SEC lineman.
Listed at 6-2, 300 pounds, Eckers - amongst the "trees" Jerry, Neely, Actis and Oher - looks like the OL version of a dwarf, kind of squatty and not really "hard" looking.
But at the end of the day, there's Eck - the senior from West Point - plugging away, patiently waiting his turn and producing when the inevitable happens - someone in the starting rotation gets hurt or cannot play.
"He's been my sixth man since I got here and he's been dependable and versatile," said Kehoe. "Thomas is tough, he's smart, he's aggressive and he doesn't make a lot of mistakes. Also, he can play any inside position on the offensive line and I don't have to worry about him."
That is the key to Thomas - "don't have to worry about him."
"I made myself viale by knowing right guard, center and left guard. Coach Kehoe and the other OL know they can depend on me to do whatever it takes and that I will know what I'm supposed to do and do my best to do it," said Eckers, who is working on his second degree at Ole Miss, marketing. "I like the idea of being the sixth man, so to speak.
"It's tough not being a starter sometimes, but I learned a long time ago that if you channel negative things into something positive, like getting better, it will work out for the best."
Thomas said he's never let his lack of "modern day" size bother him.
"When I was recruited here my coaches told me they didn't mind that I was shorter, that I could use that to my advantage to get under the pads of defensive linemen. I have always tried to use leverage and positioning to get the job done," he explained.
Eckers is now heading toward his final two games as a Rebel. He's excited about the opportunity and has no regrets about his career.
"It couldn't end any better - LSU is number two in the nation and Mississippi State is just a few miles from my hometown. I love those rivalries," his voice trailed off.
Thomas said he never considered leaving Ole Miss when the coaching change took place three years ago.
"The Lord brought me to Ole Miss for a reason, so I wasn't going to quit just because some things changed," he closed. "I am not a quitter. I was going to prove myself to whoever was here.
"Certainly I wish the team had won more, but this has been a great experience for me. I have no complaints. I struggled when I first came here, but I worked hard and made myself valuable to the team in one way or another every single year I was here. When I leave here, I hope I am remembered as a team player who gave everything to the cause - nothing more, nothing less."
Thomas Eckers is not going to go down in the annals of the all-time greats of Ole Miss lore, but any coach would take a dozen just like him every year and be happy to have them.
Thomas Eckers -
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